It’s a quintessential Kiwi right, to escape the hustle and bustle of working life. Over the weekend, Auckland-based photographer Jono Parker and his partner Jaimee did just that. Remix challenged the eco-conscious couple to head up North for a well-deserved winter getaway that ticked all their sustainability boxes. Making sustainable choices and reducing their carbon footprint in their everyday life is now second nature to the couple, even when planning weekend getaways. Prioritising sustainable practices at every stop, the all-electric Mercedes-Benz EQA proved to be the perfect companion for the road trip.
Jono, one of the country’s top architectural and lifestyle photographers, is known for capturing moments of clean beauty through his lens. From witnessing the beauty of the rich New Zealand culture and landscape, it’s no surprise the creative artist holds a deeper appreciation for the preservation of natural beauty.
Follow their journey below…
Lunch at Brick Bay’s Glasshouse and Sculpture Trail
Setting off in Mercedes-Benz’s newest electric vehicle, the EQA 250, the pair said ‘ka kite anō’ to Auckland and began the one hour journey bound for Brick Bay Vineyard in Matakana. With the EQA providing the upmost comfort, the pair were excited for a road trip like no other.
“From the very first moment I stepped into the EQA everything was so intuitive and seamless. Not only was the EQA immediately relaxing with the sleek interior and comfortable seating, but I was able to set up my profile, connect my phone and download the Mercedes Me app. From the app I could lock and unlock the car, check my battery percentage and turn on the seat warmers all prior to even getting in it.” With the cold New Zealand weather in full swing, the pre-heated seats is all the persuasion we need.
The pair finally managed to pull themselves from their toasty seats when they arrived at the one and only, Brick Bay Vineyard.
With an idyllic rolling landscape situated on the coast of the Matakana Wine Region, the 4.5 sustainably accredited (by the SWNZ) boutique vineyard spans 200 acres surrounded by farmed pasture and native bush. In all it’s uniqueness, Brick Bay extends beyond the sustainable vineyard and wines to the iconic Sculpture Trail and Glasshouse Restaurant.
The Glasshouse at Brick Bay boasts only the freshest local produce on the menu to be enjoyed within the architecturally crafted structure that references its agricultural roots. When all is said and done, food waste from the restaurant is recycled by the farm’s on-site pigs and chickens. There are also beehives on the property to assist with biodiversity.
The menus were nothing short of a foodie’s dream, from the Black Vinegar and Hoisin Braised Beef Cheeks, served with ginger chilli kumara, coriander mayo and panko crumbed chèvre cheese to the Crispy Sesame Squid, with sweet and sour tamarind chilli sauce, lime ponzu, edamame salad and cremè fraichè. With so many options, Jono and Jaimee selected various starters, from Butternut Pumpkin Soup with makrat lime, chilli, coconut and toasted seeded batard to the Brick Bay Extra Virgin Olive Oil with country sourdough, tamarillo balsamic and dukkah.
“For our lunch, we chose the lamb which is grown on their farm and most of the seasonal produce the kitchen uses is from their garden, or meat from the local butcher, for a truly sustainable experience,” said Jono.
Jaimee also took the opportunity to accompany the delectable dishes with wine pairings, for a true Brick Bay experience.
To walk off the abundance of fresh local cuisine, the pair took on the Sculpture Trail, a live outdoor gallery set against native bush, Kauri forest and lilypond lakes. Behind the lens, Jono was particularly impressed by the 60 large-scale sculpture creations crafted by New Zealand artists, with works that float, move with the wind and sunlight, and even produce sound experiences, all of which work effortlessly within the natural environment.
It’s no surprise the pair were nothing short of impressed. “The unique experience involving a local winery and sculpture trail allows you to enjoy both the local produce whilst engaging with local artist’s work.”
Te Arai Beach
After fuelling their roadie with great food only (no gas, of course), it was back into the EQA for a 45 minute drive to Te Arai Beach to capture some raw magic. It’s not a road trip without some dodgy passenger directions, but as Jaimee mentioned, when on the move, “the clever MBUX and “Hey Mercedes” command feature proved very useful in helping us get directions and further details for our journey.” Problem solved.
Off the beaten track, Forestry Beach is a hidden gem, known mostly to locals. Colliding white sand, clear waters and great swells with dense national bush, all add up to a bliss retreat. The beach itself is known for its legendary surf breaks.
“We were lucky enough to visit before the crowds showed up, proving the perfect seclusion. Sitting upon the rocks watching over the surfers amongst the sun setting light was glorious,” remarked Jaimee.
“Although the EQA was a very smooth ride in comfort mode, sport mode was excellent when I needed it to be more responsive,” said Jono.
Aotearoa Surf Eco Pods
The hunt for accommodation on a roadie is often the hardest part, particularly if you’re keeping your carbon footprint front of mind. The Aotearoa Surf Eco Pods offered both a tranquil and eco-friendly experience, with the Pod’s bounded by sustainable materials, wool insulation and recycled timber, whilst sticking to water conservation and plastic elimination commitments. The Pods’ location in Te Arai boasts humble relaxation, with unparalleled panoramic views atop the secluded property. Could this roadie sound any less dreamy?
It’s hard not to have a little FOMO with Jono and Jaimee living out our sustainable roadie dreams. “In staying at the pods, we felt we had minimal impact on the natural environment. Che and the team evidently embrace sustainability and are dedicated to caring for and preserving the natural landscape, which was obvious throughout our stay”.
The cosy pods were within perfectly close distance to Te Arai too, a quick comforting resolve after a day of travelling. Checking into the Pacific Private Pod, Jono and Jaimee were happy to find that sustainability doesn’t have to mean a compromise on luxury. As the sun set, the pair took to lounging on their private deck to watch the determined surfers, before heading to the communal entertaining area offering dining among subtropical gardens.
The couple relished the opportunity to sit back and take in the view after a day of exploring on the road. “The modern Eco Pods were set amongst native plants with panoramic views out to the ocean, offering the perfect location to soak up the New Zealand landscape.”
Matakana Farmers' Market
Refreshed and reset after having enjoyed a sleep-in in their private Eco Pod, the EQA glided the couple back through to Matakana to enjoy the infamous Matakana Village Farmers' Market, a foodie haven with fresh, sustainable and local artisan goods.
People travel from all over New Zealand to visit the quaint Saturday-only event, and it’s no wonder why, according to Jaimee. “Our stop at the bustling Matakana Markets was a highlight. From great food, fresh local organic produce and a talented musician to entertain, it was a truly wonderful atmosphere for a Saturday morning activity.”
From the fresh organic vegetables straight from the nearby gardens and homemade breads, to the amolador sharpening local’s knives and live entertainment, it was a lively stop-off on the itinerary. As no strangers to Instagram and having captured many beautiful photos at the Matakana Markets, the wireless phone charging system in the EQA proved very convenient.
Heron’s Flight Cellar Door Lunch and Wine Tasting
If you look for a slice of Italy in New Zealand, you’re bound to find Heron's Flight. Established in 1987, it’s one of the very few vineyards in New Zealand to specialise in Italian wine varieties Sangiovese and Dolcetto. Heron’s Flight combines Italian flair and sustainability, reimagining the Matakana-based vineyard into a unique Kiwi slice of Tuscany. With the vineyard focusing on water conservation and moving into full organic production - without compromising the high-quality of the wines - they’re the perfect place to unwind and learn about sustainable wine practices.
Winemakers David, Mary and Leon are experts in the field and were able to explain the history and anecdotes behind their sustainability efforts to Jono and Jaimee as they enjoyed a delicious lunch. Jaimee was also lucky enough to enjoy a wine tasting, which showcased their impressive selection of Italian wines. Who needs international travel after all?
“My wine tasting at Heron’s Flight was so special, hosted by Mary and David - they generously shared their passion for what they do during our visit. Their social, economic, and cultural responsibility have sustainability deeply embedded”.
For a quick thirty-minute recharge, the pair made a pit stop at the Warkworth Vector Electric Vehicle Charging Centre, allowing the couple to rest before another journey ahead.
“The combination of onboard Navigator and phone apps were able to show us the precise location and availability of charging stations in the area. We found charging our EQA extremely quick and effortless and were able to travel with the peace of mind that there will be a reliable fast charger somewhere nearby.”
With a charged EQA ready to go, the pair took a spontaneous re-visit to Te Arai in anticipation of catching another sunset. “An already beautiful beach is just that much more special at sunset,” Jaimee remarked.
En-route back to the Eco Pods for the pairs’ final night stay, the Mercedes-Benz EQA elevated the evening drive with its high-tech touches. “The mood-lit dashboard of the EQA en-route to our final night at the Eco Pods enhanced the tranquility of the destination,” said Jono.
“The EQA had the same luxurious, aesthetically pleasing feel as any other Mercedes-Benz but the defining difference is its very low carbon footprint. The EQA shows just how easy it is to minimise our economic impact day-to-day, without compromising on comfort and a peaceful driving experience,” said the couple reflecting on their journey.
As they witnessed another sunset from the private deck with organic Brick Bay wine in hand, the couple said goodnight to their eco-roadie already discussing plans for the next one…
Think it’s time to book your own eco-getaway? Start the journey off right and get behind the wheel of the all-electric Mercedes-Benz EQA.